2016 Tony Salin Memorial Award Recipient: Neftalie Williams

Tony Salin painting, "Mr. Baseball Brand" by artist Ben Sakoguchi, in the collection of Doug Salin.

Tony Salin painting, “Mr. Baseball Brand” by artist Ben Sakoguchi, in the collection of Doug Salin.

The Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary is pleased to announce that Neftalie Williams has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Tony Salin Memorial Award.  The award will be formally presented at the Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day on Sunday, July 17, 2016, beginning at 2:00 p.m., at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California.  The festivities will also include the presentation of the 2016 Hilda Award and the induction of the 2016 class of electees to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals: Don Newcombe, Bo Jackson, and Arnold Hano.

Established in 2002 to recognize individuals for their commitment to the preservation of baseball history, the Tony Salin Memorial Award is named in honor of the baseball historian, author, and Reliquarian who passed away in 2001.  From the time he was eight years old, Tony was referred to as “Mr. Baseball” by family and friends, whom he regularly astounded with his exhaustive knowledge of facts and trivia related to old-time ballplayers.  Over the years, this preoccupation blossomed into a passion for the study and research of unsung players and forgotten aspects of baseball history, which he felt were important to document and keep alive for future generations.

Neftalie Williams

Neftalie Williams (photo courtesy of Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)

The 2016 Salin Award recipient, NEFTALIE WILLIAMS is a photojournalist, writer, scholar, and recent graduate from the University of Southern California’s Master of Public Diplomacy program.  His area of expertise is sports diplomacy, with a specific emphasis in using skateboarding as a tool for cultural diplomacy.  In addition, Williams is bringing a new level of understanding to racial dynamics in America as the Research and Development Director for the African-American Experience in Major League Baseball (AAEMLB) oral history project.

Jose Tartabull, one of the former players interviewed by Neftali Williams.

Jose Tartabull, one of the former players interviewed by Neftalie Williams.

Launched in 2014 by Dr. Daniel T. Durbin, director of the Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society at the University of Southern California, the AAEMLB was established to collect and preserve interviews with every living African-American baseball player from the first 25 years after Major League Baseball’s racial integration, from 1947 to 1971 – comprising well over 100 subjects, many of whose personal histories remain largely undocumented.  The primary purpose of this ambitious undertaking is to create a comprehensive digital library of oral histories for future generations of researchers and historians.

Since beginning work on the project in 2014, Williams has conducted over 25 interviews, and his curiosity, enthusiasm, and youthful perspective – he is often half a century younger than his subjects – have won over many of the players, allowing them to open up, and share stories they have never told before.  For Williams, each player helps form a living bridge to an important era in black history, with contributions that span beyond baseball.  “These guys matter,” Williams has remarked.  “Black America, they had them on their backs.  And the players knew it.  They might not say it, because these guys are all really humble, but they know.”

Billy Williams, another of the former players interviewed by Neftalie Williams.

Billy Williams, another of the former players interviewed by Neftalie Williams.

In terms of his approach to the interviews, Williams has said, “I wasn’t there at that time, but at least I give them an ear to talk about it. And I will tell you, some of the guys haven’t gotten to get things off of their chest. Guys are carrying it around. Sometimes people say ‘they are carrying around being upset from like, let’s say 1952 or 1969, and I don’t understand why they are still upset.’ I’m telling you they’re not still upset, sometimes it is the first time anyone has ever asked them how they feel about something. That’s a big thing.”

Neftalie Williams will attend the Shrine of the Eternals 2016 Induction Day in Pasadena, California to personally accept the Tony Salin Memorial Award.

Dusty Baker, interviewed by Neftalie Williams for the African-American Experience in Major League Baseball oral history project.

Dusty Baker, interviewed by Neftalie Williams for the African-American Experience in Major League Baseball oral history project.

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